As a social group, vegans have a well-deserved reputation for belligerency. While stereotypes are often simplistic means of packaging disliked individuals into easily generalized and vilified groups, sometimes stereotypes are earned.
Today, I call myself a vegan for the sake of convenience, because it’s much simpler to use the term “vegan” than to launch into a diatribe about how my diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs from battery hens, but that I do eat farm-fresh eggs and honey.
But this wasn’t always the case. In my quest to find support, recipes, and nutritional advice from others who shared my preference for plant-based eating, I came across a podcast whose emcee had a deep agenda, cleverly buried under layers of good intentions. Like a religious fundamentalist, I became brainwashed with ill-researched claims about how all our food and energy problems would be solved if the world was vegan, and that my animal-loving, meat-eating friends were simply “blocked vegans” who needed to be enlightened.
I became a complete ass with an attitude toward all non-vegans. I tried to force my boyfriend at the time to convert, claiming that if he really cared about me, his health, and if he was truly an animal-lover, then he should stop eating meat. Angry vegan podcasts, websites, and books all backed me up, and I became a negative, mean person full of anger towards omnivores.
After several months of behaving this way, I realized that my beloved vegan resources only promoted one side of the story. Their radical agenda was intended to force everyone to stop eating meat, regardless of whether it was healthy for them. I went looking for the truth, and I rediscovered what I had known all along:
1. Not everyone has the same dietary requirements, and proper nutrition is not one-size fits all. While some bodies like mine function best on a vegan diet, others, who need meat aren’t obese, animal-killers. They are simply people with different dietary requirements. (For more on this, see part II “The Western Diet and the Diseases ofCivilization” of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.)
2. Our current system of factory farming is broken. The way we treat factory animals is disgusting, immoral, and unhealthy. We must move towards more humane and sustainable practices that benefit small farmers as well as respect the animals we raise for food.
3. The only hope we have of overcoming the obesity epidemic in America, improving the economic crisis in relation to agriculture, and returning the land and its animals to a natural state is to work together. The infighting between vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, vegivores, locavores, and animal rights activists is totally counter-productive.
4. The best way I can help isn’t by leafleting outside a five-star steakhouse but by promoting healthy whole-foods based diet. I’ve used my knowledge to help others meet their nutritional needs, and heal themselves with plant-based foods.
I have realized that it is impossible to do anything worthwhile by being a blind and belligerent vegan.